Category Archives: family

thoughts for parents of young teens, part 3

youth workers, feel free to copy and paste (or email) this series in a parent newsletter or email. i’d appreciate a credit line, but otherwise, go for it…

see part 1: doubts
and part 2: transition

bored in churchBored with Church and God

When your kid was 9, he loved going to church, loved his Sunday school class, and seemed to have a real relationship with God.

But now, as a young teen, he seems bored. Maybe he’s even expressed this: “Church is boring; I don’t want to go.”

This is a natural occurrence in the lives of young teens. But the reasoning behind this boredom isn’t the same for every child. Here are a few possibilities:

Not Connected
Children (prior to the teen years) need fewer reasons to find church or Christianity engaging. A few fun moments in Sunday school or the reality of Christ in their parents’ lives can be enough. But young teens start to perceive a disconnect (if one exists) between real life and “church-world.” If they don’t sense a relational connection with people in the church (youth group leaders, other kids, adults in the church), it’s easy for them to make the small leap to boredom.

Young teens have a passionate need to be valued and noticed. Any place that doesn’t validate who they are as individuals, any place where they don’t feel known, can quickly feel awkward or boring to them.

Churchianity
Unless your family happens to attend a church with worship and sermons that connect with your young teen (this isn’t common, and isn’t normally the aim of most churches), attending church can begin to feel like a monumental waste of time to young teens – even if they still have an active faith in God.

The forms most churches use (in song, spoken word and format) are pretty foreign to the world of a teenager. Frankly, they’re often pretty foreign to the world of adults too! But the variance from “church-world” to the world of adults is almost always less than to the world of teens.

Faith System Disconnect
Probably the most common, and most healthy reason for young teens to feel boredom is their developmental need to grow up in faith. Pre-teens and children approach faith issues, obviously, with the mind of a child. But a young teen’s new ability to grasp (or at least entertain) abstract ideas begs all their concrete spiritual conclusions and understandings into question.

This shift in thinking ability has enormous spiritual implications for young teens, because pretty much everything we talk about at church, or in relation to faith in God, is abstract. Its like kids have a backpack of faith system “bits.” And during their young teen years, situations arise that call these bits to the forefront. When it becomes obvious to a teen that their childhood spiritual answer to a given situation or question doesn’t offer a strong enough answer anymore, they are forced to ignore this issue or struggle to allow their beliefs to evolve into a more adult form.

Don’t be freaked out by this process. Don’t be thrown by your teen’s expression of boredom. Instead, find constructive ways to come alongside her during this transition time of life.

Processing Boredom with Your Young Teen
Here are some ideas for coming alongside your young teen and her spiritual boredom:

  • Live it out. If your teen sees a vibrant and real faith being lived out day-to-day in your life (and being verbally expressed also), it will go a long ways toward helping him consider what an adult faith system should look like.
  • Talk about it. Our natural tendency is to lecture our kids about why they’re bored (“you need to do this”). Instead, work to create open lines of communication about faith and church. Process your child’s questions and reservations without jumping to easy answers.
  • Look for relational connections. Help your teen be (or stay) connected to the people of the church, not just the program. Look for creative ways to foster these relationships – with their peers and with other adults who will care about them.
  • Debrief. After a church service or youth group meeting, talk about what went on. Be careful that this doesn’t come across as a test. Helping your teen see the life-connection between what’s talked about at church and their world is a wonderful way to encourage the growth of their faith.

thoughts for parents of young teens, part 2

if you’re a youth worker reading this, please feel free to copy and paste (or email) this in a parent email or newsletter (though a credit line would be appreciated)…

see part 1: doubts

transitionThe young teen years summed up in one word: transition

Nikki is 11 years old, and in 6th grade. But she looks more like a 16 year-old. And I’ve had more than one mom comment to me that they would pay big money to have fingernails as nice as Nikki’s. But Nikki still loves to play with Barbie dolls. In fact, it’s not uncommon for her to bring a couple with her on youth group trips. The other kids tease her about it – but she’s naive enough to think they think it’s fun that Barbie is in tow. It’s not that Nikki is neither a child nor a teenager: she’s bits of both.

Then there’s a group of guys I used to call the “Punk Pokemons” (this was several years ago when Pokemon was big). Their group was five 8th grade guys – all taller than me – who were trying very hard to be tough. They wore baggy pants and spiked their hair. And they never smiled. Never. They were 100% committed to looking disinterested. But on a regular basis, they would gather in the back corner of our junior high room at church to trade Pokemon cards (those goofy little trading cards that were popular with kids at the time). It was hilarious to see the snarling wannabe tough guys saying things like, “I”ll give you two Pikachus for one Mewtwo.”

Nikki and the Punk Pokemons are in transition. Not quite adults, but not kids anymore either.

If you ask me to define the young teen years in one word, I’d have to use the word “transition.” Everything about the world of a young teen is somewhere in-between where they’ve been and where they’re headed.

The signs of “work in progress” show up in every area of a young teen’s life, including her faith. She’s finding that her “childish” faith system isn’t working anymore, faith-bit by faith-bit. She begins the search – sometimes consciously and proactively, sometimes not – for a richer, more complex adult faith system. And much of this is accomplished through experimentation.

Here’s what I mean: your young teen might show less interest in church, but more interest in spiritual things. By spiritual things, I don’t necessarily mean youth group retreats and the church children’s choir. For a young teen, the dimensions of the spiritual life are just opening up, and they’re noticing depth and spirituality in music, in movies, in TV shows, in conversations with friends, even listening in on adult conversation.

But they’re in transition! They’ll continue to have pieces of childish faith and elements of an adult faith at the same time. Just as you would never try to rush the physical growth of your child (by pumping them full of hormones or steroids), it’s a bad move to attempt to rush this spiritual transition also. But you can help them: by listening, discussing, staying open and not threatened. Watch for these signs of transition in faith, and ask open-ended, non-threatening questions to help them develop their faith-thinking.

Share more openly about your own spiritual journey: your longings and doubts, your hopes and a-ha moments, places where you’ve seen God active in your life in the past week.

And most of all: be aware that this transition means they won’t stay this way for long; so cherish this time!


Mark Oestreicher is a partner in The Youth Cartel, a veteran youth worker, and a parent of a 20 year-old daughter and 16 year-old son. He speaks frequently to parents, and is the author or co-author of six books for parents, including A Parents Guide to Understanding Teenage Guys, A Parents Guide to Understanding Teenage Girls, A Parents Guide to Understanding Teenage Brains, A Parents Guide to Understanding Social Media, A Parents Guide to Understanding Sex & Dating, and Understanding Your Young Teen. With his own “apprentice adults,” he co-authored a book for teenagers: 99 Thoughts on Raising Your Parents.

verbalization, adventure, and getting boys to do stuff

i have a genderalization i sometimes throw out in parenting seminars:

teenage girls make friends and find their place in their world through talking; teenage boys make friends and find their place in their world through doing stuff together.

sure, there a plenty of exceptions. and this doesn’t mean that girls don’t learn from doing stuff, or that guys don’t need verbalization. it’s simply a basic tendency. it’s why teenage girls can share an intimate moment of verbal sharing and instantly be BFFs. it’s why a teenage guy can play video games with another guy, pretty much not talk about anything (at least not anything intimate or vulnerable) and consider that the perfect foundation for a friendship.

we youth workers know the importance of getting teenagers talking. i’ve been really challenged in this area by the work and words of amanda drury, who The Youth Cartel had speak at a couple events in 2012 and 2013. it has caused me to say such questionably strong statements as:

for teenage faith development, verbalization of faith is more important than accuracy.

but what about guys and doing stuff?

i have, on more than one occasion, challenged a father (more than one father) who’s troubled by how he and his son seem to be disengaging. i’ve challenged these dads with a simple, but radical, idea: splurge and take your son on a BIG TIME international adventure trip. do something and go somewhere you would never do on a “family vacation.” do something where you’re pushed, both to being personally stretched, and to relying on one another.

i’m saddened by how few (none?) of these dads have ever exercised the will and courage to take me up on my suggestion.

that’s part of why i LOVED this short film by casey neistat. admitedly, casey is an adventurer. so he’s more accustomed to these things. but his son owen wasn’t an adventurer. really, this is very much worth the 20 minutes to watch (both for the story itself, and for the principles you can see at work).

dads? what sort of shared adventures are you willing to embark on with your son?

youth workers? amidst the critical value of creating space and an environment for verbalization, how can we embrace the importance of getting guys to do stuff (and maybe verbalizing in the middle of that)?

thoughts for parents of young teens, part 1

i’m starting a new series of occasional posts with this one. i’ll probably post about one per week or so. but these will be a random tidbit of input for parents of pre-teens and young teens. if you’re a youth worker, feel free to copy and paste these into a parent newsletter or email (though i’d appreciate a credit line), for forward them a link.

young teen doubt 1Welcome to the World of Doubts

A nervous set of parents met with me. Tears came quickly. Judy, the mom, spoke in-between honks into her tissue: “Johnny, our 7th grader… [honk!]… he’s always been such a good boy. And he’s always loved Jesus.”

The dad nodded.

Judy continued: “But the other night at dinner… [honk!]… Johnny said, ‘I’m not sure I want to be a Christian anymore.’” [honk!]

A big smile broke out across my face.

Their faces made it obvious they were somewhere between confused and offended by my grin. So I explained:

Questioning and examining (usually called “doubting”) Mom and Dad’s faith system, or her own childhood faith system, is a necessary part of early teen faith development.

Did you catch that? Parents (and plenty of youth workers) are usually threatened, even frightened, by their kids’ doubts. But teenagers who don’t go through this process will reach their early 20s with a stunted (childish) faith!

Let me back up and explain a bit more fully.

The Task of Discovery

Stephen Glenn, a psychologist who published a bunch in the 70s and 80s, developed a helpful little timeline (I’m modifying the ages Glenn suggests to account for our current context). He said the first few years of life are all about “discovery”. The next few years (4 – 7, roughly) are all about “testing”. And the years from 8 – 10 are focused on “concluding.”

Then a shift of seismic proportions–-usually called puberty–-comes along like massive storm waves crashing against a sea wall made of chalk or sandstone. Wave after wave, erosion takes place–erosion of all those nice pre-teen conclusions. And the cycle begins again: 11 – 14 are years of “discovery”; 15 to 20 year-olds tend to focus on “testing”; and those in their 20something years (now called “emerging adults”) shift to forming conclusions.

Can’t you see that in your young teen? They’re in the midst of a massive adventure of discovery. That’s why they want to try everything–four sports, three clubs, five friendship groups, a new hobby or collection each month. They’re trying to gather data about the world, about how people interact, about values, about reactions. And, about what it means to be a Christ-follower.

So wrestling with “what do I believe?” becomes a wonderful question for young teens to ask. That doesn’t mean we fan the flames of their doubts (“I can’t believe you still believe that!”). It means we come alongside them in their doubts, rather than interpreting those questions (that data collection) as a real rejection of faith.

How Should Parents Respond?

Don’t freak out. When you hear doubts squeaking out, take a deep breath. Thank God that your budding teenager is still willing to verbalize this kind of thing with you. A strong negative reaction will teach your child that she shouldn’t share in the future.

Exercise curiosity. Young teens rarely have the self-awareness to verbalize their doubts in helpful and constructive ways. We have to look beyond the presenting evidence for the question(s) forming in the background. And we have to ask.

Encourage verbalization. In other words, talk about it! Healthy dialogue is often all that’s needed. Ask questions, rather than preaching.

Share in first-person. Your pre-teen or young teen will “catch” more from your life than from your words. When you do choose to share words, try not to be too prescriptive (“Johnny, what you need to do is this….”). Instead, share from your own life. Respond to doubts with your own story, including your own doubts (past or present).

Pray. Isn’t that one obvious? Your child is going through the most formative and tender years in faith development. Talk to God constantly!


Mark Oestreicher is a partner in The Youth Cartel, a veteran youth worker, and a parent of a 20 year-old daughter and 16 year-old son. He speaks frequently to parents, and is the author or co-author of six books for parents, including A Parents Guide to Understanding Teenage Guys, A Parents Guide to Understanding Teenage Girls, A Parents Guide to Understanding Teenage Brains, A Parents Guide to Understanding Social Media, A Parents Guide to Understanding Sex & Dating, and Understanding Your Young Teen. With his own “apprentice adults,” he co-authored a book for teenagers: 99 Thoughts on Raising Your Parents.

A Happy Teenager is a Lame Parenting Goal

a publisher asked me to write a short parenting book yesterday. and my teenage son is out of town this week on a class trip (and my 20 year-old daughter is away at college): so we’re getting a taste of empty nest. those factors mashed up to bring to the surface some thoughts i’ve had percolating for a while.

A Rant:

holy cow, so many parents have absorbed, like sponges, the misguided idea that the goal of parenting a teenager is for the teen to be happy.

happywith that goal in mind, they become obligated to parent with a set of behaviors and practices that misfire and don’t get them to their (misguided) goal:

  • “sure, i’m your parent; but i really want to be your friend!”
  • “i want to protect you and keep you safe, free from any scratches or dangers.”
  • “unless it’s in an area where your exploration will give you happiness, then i want you to have that.”
  • “oh, you made a really bad choice? i don’t like that you made that choice, but i’ll remove the consequences, because they would make you unhappy.”
  • “you’re too young for responsibility. you can think about that stuff when you’re an adult. i’m sure you’ll magically become responsible at that point.”

A Concession:

but i have compassion for parents of teenagers. and, as a parent of a teenager and a 20 year-old (who i refuse to consider a teenager), i hope you’ll have compassion on me.

i am regularly bombarded (as are all parents of teenagers) with the message that my teen’s happiness should be my goal. i’m told that my teenager’s happiness is my measure of success. i’m told that i’m a BAD PARENT if:

  • i don’t remove consequences to bad choices.
  • i don’t give my teenager everything s/he wants.
  • i give him or her meaningful responsibility and expectation.

really, it has become downright COUNTERCULTURAL to parent teenagers with any goal other than an obsession with their happiness.

i’m convinced that a big part of this is because the american dream has changed.

Why the Shift?

for centuries, the american dream has promised that if you work hard, you can possess the good life. this dream has morphed, to be sure, in its definition. the shift is located in our collective desire of what we want to possess. even as recently as thirty or forty years ago, the good life was primarily about property ownership, with a side helping of possessing relationships. that might be a little snarky, but the image of a poor immigrant, dreaming of one day owning a piece of land, or a home, and raising a family while applying oneself to “a good day’s work” was as clear as a norman rockwell painting.

my paternal grandparents lived this dream. maria and rudy separately left germany in their middle teenage years, steaming toward the american dream on a ship. both headed for detroit, where each had cousins or siblings who had recently put down roots. eventually meeting and marrying, they lived the life one can imagine them dreaming of as they had one foot on the gangplank and one foot on the ship leaving europe.

rudy spent his life as an electrician for detroit edison (now called DTE energy). they had a simple but comfortable home, raising a family of three children (my father included) in ann arbor, michigan. at retirement age, they did what retirees were supposed to do in those days, moving to clearwater, florida, and a massive retirement community where she could fill her days with ceramics classes, and he could fill his with golf.

by 20th century standards, they lived the american dream.

but the 21st century has a different set of values. today’s american dream is about possessing happiness, not property. material things are still a major part of the picture (maybe more than ever), since the assumption for many is that “stuff” will provide happiness.

but increasingly, today’s young adults, and thirty- and forty-somethings, are less interested in property possession and raising a family, and are more interested in a variety of other perceived happiness producers: fun, travel, adventure, meaning or significance, community, and freedom (not freedom to own things, but freedom from being anchored to anything).

The Result:

how’s this parenting approaching working out for us, by the way?

teen languagelet’s see… i’d suggest these results:

  • adolesence is extending faster than pinocchio’s nose. young adults don’t know how to take responsbility for themselves because they’ve never been given responsibility.
  • teenagers and young adults are increasingly being treated like children. this certainly does damage, and is darn close to abusive.
  • teenagers are no happier than they were a decade or two ago (prior to this absurd pendulum swing).
  • parents are not experiencing more satisfaction in their roles. in fact, more parents feel like failures than ever.
  • basically: everyone loses. no one is getting what they actually want.

time to take stock and consider a redirect, i’d say.

The Better Goal:

i believe the goal of parenting a teenager is independence. in other words, i’m more interested in raising adults than “raising kids.” sure, we’re not ultimately made for independence; god made us in his own image, wired for interdependence. but the dependence children have on their parents needs to shift during and after the teen years, with young adults both moving into interdependence with other people and their parents. so: i’m sticking with “independence” as a parenting teenagers goal: my kids have to experience healthy independence from me (and my wife) before they can choose another alternative.

to that end, i continue to wrestle my own internal insecurities, pressure from our culture, and fear of failure, to practice these commitments:

  • i will not treat my daughter or son like children. i will view them and think of them and treat them as apprentice adults rather than living the last few years of childhood.
  • i will be err on the side of giving freedom for decision making (which is not the same thing as disengaging, or abdicating). i will create clearly articulated boundaries within which glorious amounts of freedom and decision making can be exercised.
  • i will not remove the consequences of bad choices, even if the consequences will be challenging and a threat to happiness (and even if the consequences are a major inconvenience to me).
  • i totally dig my daughter and son, and love spending time with them; but i will neither fool myself into thinking i’m their peer, nor expect them to include me as a peer.

i’d love for my daughter and son to be happy (in case you thought i was suggesting the opposite). and i think they generally are happy. it’s just not the goal of my parenting. and it shouldn’t be yours, if you want to see your teenagers grow into healthy adults.

ok. who’s with me?


Mark Oestreicher is a partner in The Youth Cartel, a veteran youth worker, and a parent of a 20 year-old daughter and 16 year-old son. He speaks frequently to parents, and is the author or co-author of six books for parents, including A Parents Guide to Understanding Teenage Guys, A Parents Guide to Understanding Teenage Girls, A Parents Guide to Understanding Teenage Brains, A Parents Guide to Understanding Social Media, A Parents Guide to Understanding Sex & Dating, and Understanding Your Young Teen. With his own “apprentice adults,” he co-authored a book for teenagers: 99 Thoughts on Raising Your Parents.

Zydeco Mass

my family attended an amazing, joy-filled Zydedo Mass eucharist service tuesday night with some friends, at st. paul’s episcopal church in san diego. it was an absolutely beautiful and unique worship experience. i captured some of it in short videos and photos. here’s a taste:

my family and a friend (not a video):
IMG_3919

the processional

reading of scripture:

reading of the gospel (not a video):
IMG_3931

“dance your offerings to the front”:

eucharist/communion:

the washboard player was one of the only people who didn’t seem amused; but he was awesome in his own curmudgeonly way (not a video):
IMG_3936

the recessional:

experiential, joy-filled worship, man. couldn’t all our churches use a bit more of that!?

jeannieo

in september of 1983, near the beginning of a 2-year break i took between my sophomore and junior years of college, i walked into the lobby of michigan oven company with my drafting portfolio under my arm, ready for a job interview. the receptionist was cute, and i was fairly convinced our flirtation proved my charm (she later told me her only impression was that my suit looked dorky).

flash forward to january 4, 1986: we got married.

yup: 27 years ago today, i felt my knees buckle when jeannie appeared at the back of the aisle. she still makes my knees buckle. and i love her more than my 22-year-old self knew was possible.

here’s jeannie and me, looking very young, while visiting universal studios in california, in the summer of 1985.

marko and jeannie.1985

2012 in review

marko 2012seriously, it was a great year. a busy year. even frenetic at times. but a deeply good year.

this being my last blog post of the year, i thought i’d take a few minutes to look in the rear view mirror. as this post goes live on my blog, my wife (jeannie) and son (max) and i will be in the air on our way to london. this is a very unique thing for us, spending christmas in london! i’m 49 years old, and i have never spent a single christmas season in any location other than detroit, michigan, with my family and jeannie’s family. jeannie has never had a christmas away from her parents either. my two kids (liesl is almost 19, max just turned 15) only know christmas with extended families in detroit.

but liesl is on a gap year trip. she and her friend stephanie spent the last three months in ireland (and the month before that in england). on january 3, the day after we fly home, liesl and steph fly to india for three more months. so we splurged. we cashed in a boatload of airline miles and booked jeannie and max’s tickets using those. a london youth worker friend of mine found an extremely gracious family to give us their home for free while they’re traveling over the holidays (we’re “cat-sitting!). we even have a little side-trip planned to wales, and another british friend hooked us up with friends of his who are letting us use their welsh seaside cabin for a few bucks to offside utilities. it’s still a splurge — considering food and fun. but it seemed worth it. and i can’t wait to see my little girl.

oh, and potential robbers: we have house-sitters at our place. so don’t even think of it.

now, for that look back.

IMG_2995family

we haven’t had such a significant year in our family life for a long time. highlights:

  • in the spring, liesl got accepted to a couple of the colleges she’d applied to, and declared for university of redlands (but deferred for one year).
  • in june, max graduated from middle school.
  • a day later, liesl graduated from high school.
  • the day after that, liesl left for a summer job at a camp.
  • at the end of the summer, jeannie finished the two years of course work for her master’s degree in psychology.
  • in early september, liesl left for 7 months in england, ireland, and india (with a few weeks on the front end of immigration hassles and plan-adjustment-panic).
  • that same week, max started high school.
  • a week later, jeannie started her practicum (basically an unpaid 3/4 job, counseling in the domestic abuse section of a community services agency).
  • toss in a wonderful family vacation in washington state during spring break, a family wedding in detroit in may (liesl and i went), a family wedding in colorado at the end of july (liesl, jeannie and i went), and a nice august week with friends at a home in lake arrowhead, california.

in many ways, i feel like i was the family member with the least eventful year (which was probably a nice change for all of us!)

personal stuff

i doubt i will ever again publish as much as i did in 2012:

beardy, decemberin addition to that absurd glut of books, i wrote three columns on middle school ministry for Youthworker Journal, 6 columns for Youthwork Magazine (UK), and probably another one or two articles i’m not remembering.

i also had about 28 speaking engagements, including:

  • youth worker training events in five countries
  • youth events across the US
  • and a nice handful of parent training seminars

at my church, i continued my weekly leadership of a small group of middle school guys (now 7th graders). i preached once in “big church,” and was involved here and there in other ways.

oh, and my beard got its own personality, as well as it’s own facebook page and twitter feed.

The Youth Cartel

since adam had just joined me in the last few months of 2011, 2012 was really a massive year of growth for The Youth Cartel. it really felt like it went from me doing my little stuff, to being a real start-up. we’re running at about 110%, and just hope that the two of us don’t become limitations to continued growth.

the year included:

  • three events: Open Seattle, the Middle School Ministry Campference, and The Summit, all of which were big wins and so much fun.
  • the launch of The Youth Cartel publishing line. we’d gone way down the road with multiple publishers about doing this as a partnership, but in the end, just decided to run at it ourselves. we released four titles this year: Good News in the Neighborhood, The Youth Cartel’s Unauthorized Dictionary of Youth Ministry, Masterpiece, and Leading Up. each was a labor of love, and would not have happened without a team of wonderful friends and editors and great authors.
  • photo (6)

  • late in the year, it was obvious that we were getting over our heads on the publishing thing, and added anne jackson as our very-part-time managing editor. she’s allowing me to breath.
  • our email lists have grown to over 3000 youth workers. these include product and event lists, as well as the popular YouTube You Can Use and Cartel Culture.
  • we’ve seen steady growth on facebook and twitter, which has been fun. and our fledgling blog made it to #14 on the list of top 25 youth ministry blogs.
  • we developed amazing partnerships with a whole bunch of great organizations. they are such an encouragement to us.
  • we loved serving a bunch of consulting clients. many of these are adam’s babies, and focus mostly on web development and social media help. but others — from biblica to world vision to thomas nelson publishers to a couple denominational groups have been shared efforts.
  • we launched our online store, and have been pleased with the traction so far.
  • the Youth Ministry Coaching Program had an amazing year. i had cohorts of youth workers meeting in san diego, nashville, winston-salem, and san antonio. and i lead a custom version for a handful of staff at a church in detroit. this month, i launched two beta-test groups of a new online version. and in early january i start a new nashville cohort.

i’m sure i’m leaving some stuff out. but that’s the bulk of the stuff for The Youth Cartel in 2012.

in summary

yup. it was an amazing year. i’m thankful to my god. i’m in love with my family. and i’m deeply happy and full of hope.

ok, 2013: bring it on!

A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Social Media

i’m really pleased with how the “Parent’s Guide” series i developed for Simply Youth Ministry is unfolding. three of the five titles have released previously:
A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Teenage Girls, which i co-authored with brooklyn lindsey
A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Teenage Guys, which i co-authored with brock morgan
A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Teenage Brains, which i wrote all by my big-boy self

and A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Sex & Dating (co-authored with joel mayward) should release around february 1, i think.

but the fourth book in the series just released, and i think it’s going to be very, very helpful to lots of moms and dads (and, youth workers, frankly). introducing: A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Social Media (btw: there’s a free downloadable sample at that link). i co-authored this one with my partner in crime, adam mclane (and let’s be honest: you all know that with this topic, he did the heavy lifting in terms of writing. if i were writing a social media book all by myself, it would probably be called “how to offend people when you think you’re being mysterious online, how to host a twitter feed for facial hair, and how to blog about weird nativities, all to the glory of god, of course.”).

like all the books in this series, it’s very short and to the point. but don’t make the wrong assumption that the content must, therefore, be lightweight. this little baby is much more than “teenagers like to text” and “have you heard of facebook?” really, i learned SO much co-authoring this with adam because the dude knows his stuff. in other words, i think youth workers would benefit from this just as much as parents.

here’s the back cover copy:

With each passing day, teenagers’ lives become increasingly intertwined with social media. How can you as a parent stay informed and involved in healthy ways? How can you help your son or daughter make wise decisions and remain safe online?

A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Social Media will equip you to have meaningful conversations with your teenager about the best, wisest ways to get connected while staying safe.

Your guides for this journey are Mark Oestreicher and Adam McLane, who draw from their own wells of experience as parents and youth workers. They’ll help you chart a course toward discovering and practicing wise family online activity.

check out this nice amazon review that got posted by “tim” yesterday:

As someone in youth ministry who is fairly “connected” with social media, I started the book a bit skeptical of it teaching me anything new but read it to see if it would be good to pass on to the parents of teenagers I know. Not only would I recommend this book to all parents of teenagers, but I found myself learning things I didn’t know before and gaining new insights into the world of social media that not only relate to teens but my online activity as well.

A book about technology and what’s popular runs the risk of getting outdated quickly but the principles in this book can be applied to whatever is popular online at any time.

thoughts/suggestions:

  • if you’re a parent, get a copy (and maybe another copy for a friend)
  • if you’re a youth worker, get a copy for yourself (there are very few youth workers who won’t learn something new in this)
  • or, if you’re a youth worker, consider getting a dozen or two (they’re SUPER cheap), and hosting a conversation with a group of parents in your church.

click here to see more, download the free sample, or order the physical or digital version.

Liesl and Max answers Josh Griffin’s questions about 99 Thoughts on Raising Your Parents

you probably know already that i wrote a book earlier this year with my two teenage kids, liesl and max. it’s called 99 Thoughts on Raising Your Parents: Living the Sweet Life at Home.

but yesterday on his blog, josh griffin hosted a little Q&A with my kids about the book. i loved their answers, so asked josh if i could post them also.

Q&A about 99 Thoughts on Raising Your Parents
With Liesl Oestreicher and Max Oestreicher

Marko: Liesl and Max really did write these answers, just like they really did write the book with me (they wrote 100% of these answers, and about 70% of the book). Btw: Liesl is 18 – she graduated from HS last spring, and I currently on a gap-year, living in Ireland at the moment, and heading to India in January. Max is 14 (turns 15 in a week), and a freshman in HS.

Josh: OK, first off tell us about YOU!

Max: Drums + ukulele + bacon = Max Oestreicher

Liesl: I’m a dirty hippy, loving trees one hug at a time.

Josh: OK, now … what’s up with your dad’s beard?

Max: I think he should go pro.

Liesl: Babies and old, senile women enjoy grabbing and stroking it. It’s true, I’ve seen both happen.

Josh: The book is awesome – how did it come about?

Max: My dad wanted me and my sister to write a book about how cool he is. At first i refused, and then he told me i’d get paid.

Liesl: I was sitting in a forest, writing my autobiography, when a glowing figure approached me. The figure told me He was God, who had come down in human form to tell me something. He told me that He had peeked at what I was writing and that it was very good, that it even exceeded the work of the great Mark Oestreicher. He then told me that He wanted me to write a book for teenagers, just like me, about how to get along with their parents. And, of course, I gratefully accepted.
I don’t know, maybe I imagined that. Now that I think about it, my dad just sent me an email one day that said my brother and I were going to write a book and we were going to get paid for it.

Josh: What’s one thing that teenagers can do to change the game for the relationship they have with their parents?

Max: When you are getting in an argument/fight/disagreement with your parents, don’t get defensive. Respectfully communicate your point of view, and then listen to their’s.

Liesl: Respect their opinions. If you don’t, how do you expect them to respect yours?
…or you can just move to Ireland, like I did.

Josh: Tell us a story about when your parents screwed up. Make me laugh!

Max: My parent lost me at Disney World when I was three. They let go of my hand and I decided I wanted to go see KIng Louie.

Liesl: Once my mom and I were on a snowmobile on a family vacation. My mom accidentally went too close to a little dip and our snowmobile rolled over sideways. We couldn’t get up on our own, so before he helped us, my dad laughed as he took pictures.

Josh: Who do you love more – mom or dad? What do you value most about them?

Max: I think my mom is just ok, but compare her to my dad and she’s amazing.

Liesl: I would say my mom, but my dad is more likely to see this, so… definitely my dad.

Josh: You have the attention of a TON of youth workers – what would you say to them about their jobs/roles/calling?

Max: I think youth workers should give a lot of opportunities to get involved in a leadership roles as this has been very meaning full to me.

Liesl: It is really encouraging to here your life stories, especially the times when you screwed up. It shows us (teenagers in your youth group) that it is a safe place to admit to our faults when you do the same.

*****************

that’s the end of josh’s interview, but let me add a couple things.

first: one of the creative youth workers in my youth ministry coaching program recently told me about a very cool way she used the book. she took a single copy, cut the spine off (so all the pages were loose), and handed out each section (there are 6 or 7 sections) to a group of teenagers in her group. the groups read their sections, then made a presentation to the whole youth group, highlighting their own takes on a few of the ideas for improving their relationships with their parents.

and, here’s a goofy little video i shot for simply youth ministry when i was at their offices in august!